Football Can Be Fun For All-A Story of a CFL Game

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Written by Stephen Sweet

Football is one of North America’s oldest sports. It has also had quite a rich history in Canada, thanks to the longevity of the CFL, who started handing out their Grey Cup over 50 years before the NFL had their Super Bowl. It is a sport that I grew up watching, mostly thanks to my dad. The first CFL game I attended was in 1990, when the offensively-rich Toronto Argonauts took on the B.C. Lions. All I remember from that evening was touchdown after touchdown, and in the end, the Argonauts won 68-42, in the highest scoring game in league history. I left that game thinking that football was the greatest thing, even after my dad tried to explain that you don’t normally see 110 points in a football game.

More recently, our family bought season’s tickets to the Toronto Argonauts for this 2006 season. There are 3 tickets and it’s usually me, my dad, and my brother Adam go to the games. Both my dad and brother have played the game for years at a pretty competitive level and both my dad and I have followed the intricacies of the CFL together for many years now.

On Thanksgiving Day, I was looking forward to going to the Argos game against Edmonton with my dad and brother. But the day before, my brother phoned home and informed us that he wouldn’t be home from visiting a friend in Ottawa in time, so my dad posed the question to me:

“Why don’t you invite your girlfriend along?”

Invite my girlfriend to a football game? Isn’t there some unwritten guy’s rule about not doing that? My dad had brought my mom to a football game when they were dating and it was the first football game my mom had ever seen. Very early in the game, the Argonaut defender picked off a pass and ran for a touchdown, and everyone got up and started yelling. My mom, thinking a riot was about to take place, hid under her seat.

Could I expect the same thing to happen here?

I invited my girlfriend Andrea to the game, and she was excited to go even though she wasn’t overly interested in football. At least she had seen a football game before at McMaster, so maybe I wasn’t going to have to try and keep her from hiding under a seat. So on the one hand, I was going to a Football game with one person who could tell me the play-by-play of the 1971 Grey Cup; someone who could spot a lineman moving illegally from the 500 level of Skydome (sorry, “Rogers Centre”). On the other was a person who wasn’t even sure who started with the ball or be able to tell the difference between Damon Allen and Woody Allen.

The game started off without a hitch, with me explaining a few of the basics to my girlfriend, like first downs, punting, and offsides. She cheered when the Argonauts kicked a field goal. “I hope this game doesn’t end up like the one against Hamilton,” I commented, as I had been to a Toronto-Hamilton game the week before where the score ended with a meager 11-9 decision for Toronto.

“Oooh,” she said. “I like Hamilton. I’d cheer for them.”

No! They’re the Argonauts arch-rivals! That’s like going to a Montreal-Ottawa hockey game with a Leafs jersey! (No wait, I don’t think she’d get that. It’s more like going to an Arthur Miller play wearing a shirt bought at a Neil Simon play.) I tried to explain a bit about how the two teams are actually rivals, and the Ti-Cat fans’ chants of “Argos Suck” are far more popular than “Go Ti-Cats”. She assured me she was cheering for the Argos in this game, but I’m not so sure I’d take her to an Argos-‘Cats game any time soon.

The first half provided several good cheering moments. The Argonauts’ Jordan Younger intercepted a pass and ran 76 yards for the touchdown, which she managed to follow the whole way along. Then, with the Argos leading 11-8 in the second quarter, the Edmonton Eskimos had a third-down and a yard to go. The stadium got noisier as the quarterback got ready to start the play. Then, confirmation.

“He moved! The right guard moved!”

I told you my Dad could spot an illegally moving lineman from the 500’s. Sure enough, the flags were thrown, and the head referee spoke to the crowd.

“False start, number 58, offense. 5-yard penalty, repeat third-down.”

“That’s great!” I exclaimed to my dad. “Now they’ll definitely have to punt the ball.”

“That’s right,” he replied. “Now if they can get a good runback, and keep both of their running backs going, they’ll be in good shape.”

Meanwhile, to my left, there was far less assurance.

“What happened?” asked Andrea.

“It was a false start penalty. Edmonton now has to start five yards behind where they just were.”

“So what’s that mean?”

“The right guard (the second guy from the right) for Edmonton, moved before he was allowed to. It’s kind of like being offside.” That explanation seemed to suffice.

The first half was exciting, with plenty of scoring, and both my father and my girlfriend seemed to enjoy it. However, the second half started to slow down a bit, as Edmonton had possession for almost the entire quarter and rarely did anything other than run the ball. It was time for a break for Andrea, who lasted almost three full quarters, impressive for a newbie. She came back just a few minutes before the game’s turning point. With the Argos leading 28-23, the Eskimos moved their way towards scoring position late in the game. At the 17-yard-line, the Argonauts caused a fumble, which Jonathan Brown recovered, essentially saving the game for the Argonauts. All three of us cheered. As the cheers died down, I turned to my girlfriend and asked, “Did you see that fumble?”

“What fumble?”

“When the Edmonton player dropped the ball and the Toronto guy picked it up.”

“Oh. What’s that mean?” (This was becoming a recurring phrase on this afternoon)

“It means that now Toronto gets the ball instead of Edmonton.”

“Oh. Yay!!!” exclaimed a once-again excited Andrea.

Rather than asking the fruitless question of why she cheered in the first place if she had no idea what had happened, I thought about it. Her cheers were because she enjoyed the game as a whole. Even at whatever level of knowledge she had on the game, she had an enjoyable time.

All three of us left the game happy as the Argonauts held on to win 28-23. We all saw the events of the game at our own level, but that was sufficient enough for each of us to enjoy the game. I taught Andrea a few things about the game, just as my dad had taught me for years and still teaches me today. But she had taught me that you didn’t need to understand everything to have fun. Sometimes, being around the right people at the right time is really all you need to have a good time at any sporting event.
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